someone handing another person money

I’m shocked – shocked! – that our City Council President and leading mayoral candidate Andy Ginther is accused of taking bribes. His name is attached to the scandal involving former CEO of Redflex Karen L. Finley – provider of much-hated red-light traffic cameras – pleading guilty to bribery and fraud schemes.

Finley pled guilty to submitting payments based on false invoices to a consulting firm, which then laundered the money into elected public officials’ accounts – including Andy Ginther’s account. In classic corrupt quid pro quo, in exchange for the dough, Ginther granted Redflex a contract for red light cameras in our city.

No wonder he was able to raise so much money as Council President and as a mayoral candidate. Ginther’s method, like his mentor Mayor Michael Coleman – is that nearly every contract is an opportunity to shake someone down for money.

In this case, we’re glad to say, “We told you so.”

The Columbus Free Press and have been telling this community for more than a decade that Andy Ginther is corrupt. From his earliest days hanging out at Franklin County Democratic Party headquarters, he was always unprincipled pragmatic ambition in search of ever-higher political positions. He got himself appointed to both the School Board and City Council and then anointed as the mayor-to-be.

He was put on the Columbus School Board because he was a “yes” man who would cover up scandals. He forced out the School’s Internal Auditor who was investigating the early stages of the atrocious data-rigging scandal.

But more than that, as Columbus City Council President, Ginther has consistently done the bidding of downtown development titans who don’t live in the city of Columbus – at the expense of poor and underdeveloped neighborhood in the city. He turned off the cameras so that when community representatives spoke at Columbus City Council meetings, they would not be heard. He continued the practice of Michael Coleman in not allowing the citizens of Columbus public access television. He made sure that every Council vote was 7-0, with no dissent.

He closed the City Council meetings in 2010 for the first time in our city’s history. He carved out exceptions in the open meeting policy so that he and Council members could cut backroom deals. Of course, in his nod to George Orwell, he called his charter amendment the “Open Meetings” amendment.

Not surprisingly, Ginther also led the charge against the efforts to have campaign finance reform for people running for city positions, supported by the Free Press and other grassroots organizations like the Columbus Coalition for Responsive Government.

Ginther convinced the fake grassroots organization called ProgressOhio to attack the finance reform – that included transparency and matching funds for candidates. Ironically, had this passed, Ginther’s campaign bribes would have been public knowledge early on.

It should be clear to Columbus residents that Ginther accepting a bribe is not isolated corruption. The city’s Democratic Party machine systematically enables the corruption we see personified in Ginther. City Attorney Richard Pfeiffer is the leading enabler. His actions indicate that he sees his job as prividng legal advice and covering up the corruption of Andy Ginther and Michael Coleman.

Sadly, a well-past-his-prime City Auditor Hugh Dorrian continues to remain loyal to a corrupt machine that exists by appointing ever-new non-entities and unknowns to Columbus City Council, as long as they kiss the ring of the Council President and the Mayor.

In a just society, Ginther and Coleman should have gone to jail for the quarter-billion-dollar bailout of the Nationwide Arena and the Blue Jackets – that benefited four of the wealthiest suburban families in town at the taxpayers’ expense. At least, they should never have been re-elected.

Instead of pretending that Andy’s actions are just an anomaly, it’s time for the people of Columbus to alter the system that has created a modern Tammany Hall.  The city needs representations from a ward system of the neighborhoods, not just seven at-large Council members. We need campaign finance reform for city candidates. And we need the return of public access TV.

Columbus politics are corrupt and need to be cleaned up. Let’s start with transparency and let the sunshine in.